Sunday Reflections: It Wasn’t as Many as I Wanted, but Maybe it was Just Enough to Change the World
It was four years ago that I walked into my Teen MakerSpace after they announced that Donald Trump had become the 45th president of the United States. I remember that day vividly. I had woken up at 4:00 A.M. and seen the news and cried in despair. And there before me sat one of my many LGBTQ teens. And as one of her peers walked into the room celebrating that Trump had won, she lifted up her head and looked him in the eyes and said, “Do you know what they want to do to people like me?”
The look in her eyes and the sound of her voice will forever haunt me. The fear is not something I will ever in my life forget. Before me sat a human being who was broken, cast aside and living in a shadow of fair that I could not imagine. And my heart shattered to see it.
I don’t work at that library anymore, but yesterday I wished I did just so I could see that teen and tell her that she could have a moment of relief. Of hope. Just a moment to know that for this moment, people had voted for her. For her safety, for her humanity, for her rights.
Not the number of people that I thought would. No, I thought for sure that far more people would vote against the hate and the division and for their fellow human beings. And that, too, will haunt me for the rest of my life, knowing the number of people who were willing despite everything to vote once again for this man. Despite the babies who were put alone in cages while their mothers wombs were literally ripped from their bodies against their will. Despite the anguished tears of our Black brothers and sisters, our Latinx brothers and sisters, our Muslim and Jewish and LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Despite the documented lies and the documented corruption and the rhetoric of hate and the blatant selfishness. Despite the fact that this man had stood at a podium of leadership and besmirched the names of our military personnel, our teachers, our scientists, our doctors and nurses, our mothers and daughters, our media and our fellow countrymen – our family members, our neighbors, our friends, ourselves.
Despite that fact that 230,000 of our fellow Americans had died in a raging pandemic that he never once tried to control. Despite the fact that there was never any acknowledgment from him, no national moment of silence or a simple message of unity.
I work with youth and having to explain to the youth of our nation how we came to this moment in history has been hard. And they see us. They see our hypocrisy. They see our hearts festering with hate. They see us voting against them. They see our greed and our selfishness. They see us debating about small tax increases and 401K plans while 1 in 5 children go to bed hungry at night and their parents wait in long car lines to try and pick up the food they need to eat at a food bank in the middle of the most deadly pandemic that they will (hopefully) see in their lifetime.
They see us and I have not had the words to explain it to them. Because those words don’t exist. There are no words that can convey the magnitude of our selfishness, of our greed, of our hatred, of our racism, of our individualistic tendency towards self annihilation no matter who it hurts, even if it ultimately hurts the very people we love and the very nation we purport to believe in.
There just aren’t words to explain who we are as a nation right now in this moment in history. Who we have been for these last four years.
But I wish that I still lived there so I could take that teen that I loved and nurtured and served and broke bread with and for just this moment I could tell her – it wasn’t as many of us as I wanted, but enough of us cared to try and change the world for you. And we’ll keep trying.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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